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Fay Sampson’s Family History

This site is a work-in-progress. There is a massive amount to cover. I have included both male and female lines, and some go back 30 generations. Keep coming back for more.
I have numbered the generations working backwards from my own as (1)

Sampson  Tree


ADAM DE KARI. It is often assumed that the Carys of Devon have their origins in Castle Cary in Somerset.

Chris Hicks of Castle Cary Museum argues convincingly against this:[1]

“As you will not be surprised to learn we frequently receive requests from people searching their Cary ancestors.   Many of them take their line back to Adam de Kari as he is recorded in many books as being the Lord of Castle Cary in Somerset.

“However we have never been able to find any evidence that this is so… Now recently we have undertaken a detailed search of all the known sources and we can say that he was in fact based in a Castle Cary in the Tamar Valley in Devon and that the connection to Castle Cary in Somerset is an error based on a manuscript written in 1630. Unfortunately this error has then been repeated in some of the subsequent publications.

“Further the records show that the lords of the manor here were the families of Perceval/Lovel, St Maur, Zouches and Willoughbys. No Cary has ever been the lord of the manor here.”

He summarises the research in his article:

Adam de Kari: Was he the Lord of Castle Cary?

This is frequently asked when people are researching their family history and are able to take their line back to this man.  This paper tries to answer that question.

The origin of the name Cary

The name of the river that rises in Castle Cary and flows out onto the Somerset Levels is Celtic in origin and simply means ‘pleasant stream’ although some authorities also suggest it means a rocky place by a stream.  It therefore predates the Saxons who were here before the Norman invasion.

Cary Families in Castle Cary in Somerset

Cary as a family name is also fairly common but the earliest occurrence of it in the Castle Cary records is in 1588 when the baptism of an Edward Cary is recorded in the parish register.  Then over the years many people with this name have lived in the town but there is nothing to suggest that this is more than a simple coincidence.  Various families with the name Cary have come and gone, none of them having any connection to the Manor. That someone moving away could then have been called ‘of Cary’- is certainly likely but as there are other places which include the word Cary in their name both in this area and elsewhere it would be impossible to draw more than very general conclusions from this.

The Lords of Castle Cary in Somerset

The names of the lords of Castle Cary are recorded in The Domesday Book and other documentary sources. The first owner of what can be called the manor of Cary in Somerset was a Saxon thegn named Elsi or Alfsi. He was displaced by William the Conqueror after the Norman invasion and the lands given to Walter of Douai.  When his male line moved elsewhere the lordship was given to Robert Perceval de Breherval. He was succeeded by his son Ascelin Gouell de Perceval who acquired the nickname ‘Lupus’ and this became the surname of the family changing to Lovel. During the next few centuries, mainly by descent and marriage, the estate passed successively through the hands of the Lovels, the St Maurs (Seymour) the Zouches and the Willoughbys. Eventually Edward, Duke of Somerset purchased it and then in 1684 it was sold again and the estate broken up.  Later the Lordship of the Manor was purchased by the Hoare family of Stourhead in Wiltshire.  No person with the name Cary has ever been lord of the manor in the town.

Cary Family in Devon

Adam de Kari first appears in the “Heralds Visitation of Devon of 1620” there being no mention of him in earlier visitations. A much later visitation then states that Adam was lord of Castle Cary in 1198. Although useful the visitations must be treated with some caution as the information was often supplied by the families in question so it is unclear how reliable this might be. The then head of the family was Sir William Cary and in referring to Adam de Kari he was going back up to twelve generations and four hundred years. Concerning Castle Cary the pedigree explicitly places it in Devon thus; “Sir John Cary…had landes in three sundrie shires, Devon, Dorset and Somerset…at Hoke in Dorset, at Castle Cary in Devon.”

The problem starts in 1630 when Thomas Westcote, in his “A View of Devonshire”  records the Cary family in two statements, “Cockington is now in our sights…Now it is the seat of the illustrious family of the Carys, whose ancestors may be derived from Adam (I mean) Cary, of Castle Cary and has taken deep root and multiplies in this soil…..” and  “Cary, of Castle Cary in Somerset, Hook in Dorset and Cary and Kegbear in Okehampton…Adam de Cary, of Castle Cary…”

He quite clearly refers to the Devon family, mentioning a Cary in the same county, then makes the first suggestion that the Castle Cary in question is in Somerset but without offering a reason for this. It is likely that a branch of the Cary family from Devon owned land in Somerset but not in Castle Cary itself. Westcote’s book remained in manuscript for many years but it was widely circulated amongst scholars and was quoted by later writers who appear to accept his statements with little reservation. When the book was eventually printed in 1845 the editors were very forthright in cautioning the reader about its accuracy. In particular they say; “As to his pedigrees of most of our Devonshire Families it is evident that he is chargeable with some egregious mistakes and errors….”

However this warning has been clearly been missed or ignored by later writers and several books published on the Cary family continue to state that Adam de Kari was the Lord of Castle Cary in Somerset in 1198. In some books later generations are listed as born in Castle Cary Somerset whilst in others the family is immediately removed back to a place in Devon with the same name. There are now also at least a dozen family history pages online which perpetuate the story and simply quote extracts from these books. Even by 1633 in Gerard’s Survey of Somerset the visitation pedigree was being called into question. He also says that Adam de Cary flourished at the time of Edward I which would place him a century later than other sources. In “The Devon Carys” there is detailed description of the confusion.  The author, in pointing out the that the information supplied by Sir William Cary should be treated with caution, goes so far as to wonder if the use of the name ‘Adam’ was no more than a variation on the saying ‘we are all descended from Adam.’

It is now clear that the Cary family was based in Devon and no evidence of any connection with Castle Cary in Somerset has been found. They held lands in two areas. Firstly in Torbay, the Manor of Cockington which they held from 1374 until 1654 and also Torre Abbey. In St Marychurch there is a nineteenth century pseudo-mediaeval house built by a branch of the family and called Cary Castle. This similarity of name has caused additional confusion with the assumption that Cary Castle and Castle Cary are one and the same thing

The Cary family also held lands in North Devon in the parishes then called Liston and Paneston. Part of the family was located in a small village called St Giles-on-the-Heath by a tributary of the Tamar called the Cary but usually referred to in various sources as Carywater. This is close to the border with Cornwall and a few miles north of Launceston. It is here that the manor house, the Castle Cary referred to in the visitation of 1620, was located. This burnt down in 1796.


The list of the lords of Castle Cary in Somerset shows that the Perceval/Lovel family were the lords here from before 1120 until 1330. The family of Adam de Kari was firmly located in Devon and any suggestion that he was the Lord of Castle Cary in Somerset in 1198 is unsustainable.


According to Risdon’s Survey of Devon (1714), St. Giles in the Heath was ‘so termed of its barren sight, is hemmed in within the Tamar river on one side, and a pretty brook called Cary on the other‘. This he conceives gives rise to the name for the Cary family’ who originated here in the 12th century. Cary Barton is the only mentioned Manor listed in Doomsday 1068 as Kari.

In 1068 the Kari estate was made up of 3220 acres of land, of which 2400 acres were used for farming, 720 acres were kept in woodland, and 52 were meadows. About 1086 acres were used to raise swine. The pigs lived in the wooded areas and feasted on the acorns from the many oak trees there.

It would thus seem likely that Adam de Kari’s home the manor house on the site of Cary Barton, in the village of St Giles on the Heath.

Whether he was born there is uncertain. He was almost certainly a Norman. William the Conqueror was ruthless in taking manors from their Anglo-Saxon owners and giving them to his Norman followers. We first hear of Adam de Kari in 1198, more than a century after the Conquest. It is impossible to know whether his family came to England in 1066, or arrived later and bought or were awarded the manor of Kari from the current owner. Adam may be the first settler in England.

We do not know what part of northern France his family came from.

He is thought to have been born around 1170, in the reign of Henry II, and to have flourished in the time of Richard I, at the end of the 12th century.

The Heralds’ Visitation of 1620 describes him as “of Castle Carye, Esq, (Devon)” and testifies both that he bore  “arms gules chevron entre three swans argent”, and that he married Amy, daughter of Sir William Trevit, knight. His wife’s name is usually given as Ann.


St Giles on the Heath is 4 miles NE of Launceston. It is now in Devon, but was formerly part of Cornwall, untypically east of the Tamar.

The earliest parts of the present church of St Giles the Hermit date from the 13th century. There is a monument to the Cary family dated 1565. Before 1193 it was a chapelry of North Petherwin, 5 miles to the west, and belonged to the abbey of Tavistock. It stands a mile and a half NW of the village.

There is a plain Norman font in the church which may well be where Adam’s family were baptised.

St Giles on the Heath
Norman font [2]


ANN TREVETT was the daughter of Sir William Trevett and his wife Isabel.

The Trevetts were a Somerset family who had come from Normandy in the previous century. They were long established at Chilton Trivet, just west of Bridgwater, with their principal seat at Durborough, north of Nether Stowey.

Ann is their only known child.

She was born in 1174 and married in 1190, when she was 16.


A Baron de Kari took part in the Crusades in 1195. We have no confirmation that this was Adam, but it seems possible. If it was, then Ann would have taken responsibility for maintaining the family estates in his absence in the Holy Land.

The Crusade called in 1195 was known as the Emperor’s Crusade. It was led by the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI. It was largely a German undertaking, but crusaders were recruited from across western Europe.

Twelve days before the crusaders arrived in the Holy Land, Henry II, King of Jerusalem, died in a fall from a window while reviewing troops. He was either dragged to his death by a dwarf entertainer who had accidentally fallen, or vice versa. The king died of his injuries, mostly caused by the dwarf landing on top of him.

The Emperor Henry appointed in his stead his protégé King Aimery of Cyprus and had him marry the widowed Queen Isabella, thus extending his power to Jerusalem.

The crusaders were still besieging towns on the Mediterranean coast when news reached them that the Emperor Henry had died in Sicily. His father had also died on crusade without reaching the Holy Land. The majority of knights abandoned the crusade and returned to what was likely to be a contested succession to the Holy Roman Empire.[3]


We know that Adam was alive and Lord of Cary in 1198.


We know of only one child from their marriage. John was born around 1200.


Also in 1200 Nicholas de Kari witnesses a document concerning a stall in Bath.[4] We do not know what relation, if any, he was to Adam de Kari.


Ann died three years later, in 1203, aged 29.


Adam lived to see the reign of the unpopular King John, 1199-1216. He was probably still alive for the signing of Magna Carta at Runnymede on the Thames in 1215. This was a document intended to assert the rights of the barons and the Church in the face of John’s autocratic rule .King John’s failure to comply sufficiently with its terms led to the Barons War.


Adam’s death dates given in family trees range from 1199 to 1261. The former was before John’s birth. The latter would make him 91.


[1] http://www.advsolutions.com/carey/castlecariresearch.htm
[2] http://www.cornishchurches.com/St%20Giles%20on%20the%20Heath%20Church%20Devon%20-%20St.%20Giles/images/prevs/St%20Giles%20on%20the%20Heath%20-%20The%20Font.jpg
[3] https://www.worldhistory.org/German_Crusade_1197-8_CE/
[4] Bath Record Office. BC 151/3/42




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